Thursday, August 02, 2007

Texas BBQ

There are major hubs of barbecue all across this country. Some like the chopped pork and vinegar based BBQ sauce of North Carolina. Others prefer the pulled pork sandwich with sweet BBQ sauce of Memphis, Tennessee. Some long for the baby back ribs of St. Louis. But right now I am in Texas, home of the slow-cooked beef barbecue.

Here in Texas they don't focus as much on pork. This is the land of beef. Good steaks and good roasts are around every corner. And in Texas, barbecue means "beef brisket." It also means the meat is smoked for almost a day in order to get the perfect flavor and tenderness.

As I sat in a smokey barbecue joint, up to my elbows in BBQ sauce eating some of the best beef you'll ever taste, I thought of how those master barbecuers do their magic. You see, brisket is a tough piece of meat. It is found on the chest part of the cow which gets plenty of exercise. This makes the meat fibrous and hard to eat. Believe it or not, brisket is one of the least favorable parts on a cow. You can't just pop brisket in the oven for a couple hours and hope to have something edible.

So what these "Sultans of Smoke" have to do down here is cover it in spices and let it cook "low and slow." They put the meat in the smoker early in the morning and sometimes even the night before. And the meat is cooked on a very low heat for a very long time. But it is precisely this cooking method that not only makes the meat extremely tender by dinner time, but also full of that amazing, smokey flavor.

This gradual and patient cooking process changes a below average cut of meat into a meal fit for a king. And as I sat there with my lips covered in BBQ sauce, I was reminded that this is also how God changes us. We are all in our own way below average, tough pieces of meat. We aren't naturally tender or full of flavor. So God in His grace patiently works with us. This change into the image of Christ doesn't happen all at once. But with gentle warmth and a lifetime saturated in the Holy Spirit, we tenderize. The taste and aroma of the Lord penetrates our tough skin. And gradually, over time, we become a servant fit for a King. God's transforming grace works "low and slow" to make us into the image of Christ.

So when you find yourself frustrated that changes in your life aren't immediate. When you get down about the fact that you just aren't who you want to be. Just know that God is working, gently and patiently to make you into who you are called to be.


At 7:30 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...


you have got to write a book. or just take all your blog posts and throw them into a book. "nuggets of truth, from the brain of mark stephenson" or "truth is everywhere; how god uses starbucks lattes, texas bbq, and other odd parallels" or it could be one of those toilet books "god is everywhere, even in the bathroom, so here's some thinking while you are___" each of your short essays just enough time! i bet you yours would be the first one ever to be sold in your local Lifeway... but my takehome message is your stories crack me up but they are good! i enjoy them! hope you and missy had fun on your multiple state trip!

At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Jason said...

I will probably be chewing on some good texas bbq myself in the very near future.

We're here! (In Texas, that is)

I wish our paths could have crossed. I look forward to the day when they will cross again.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Mark said...

One day God may want me to write a book. Right now, I am pretty sure no one wants to read a book written by a 28 year old novice who hasn't lived long enough to know anything about anything.

But thanks for your encouragement. I am glad someone gets something out of these little blogs of mine.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Welcome back to the good ol' US of A! Glad you guys are finally home. I definitely want to visit with you guys soon. And I am sure that we will see plenty of you in Dallas since Missy has friends and family there.


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